Manchester United’s new head of academy and former midfielder Nicky Butt wants to take a leaf out of his old mentor Sir Alex Ferguson’s book by bringing in one-club stalwarts.
United, who take on rivals City in Saturday’s Barclay’s U21 Premier League Division 1 clash at the Etihad Stadium, go in top of the league.
Yet their academy has been one area which has come under scrutiny in recent months following unfavourable comparisons with the facilities available across town at Manchester City.
In an interview given to MUTV, Butt said the purpose of the academy was not just to produce good footballers who go on to have good Championship or lower league careers, but to provide top-class players to help United to Champions League glory once more.
“You don’t just come here to play 10 games and move on. We want these one-club guys who can contribute to the club,” said Butt, who played alongside one-club legends Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes.
“We know it’s very, very hard to do that but it has got to be the ultimate goal and everyone knows that.”
On United’s side, says Butt, is a passionate belief in communication with players and their families even if they may have been financially outmuscled by the likes of City.
“No one else can touch our club with our pathway for the players to come through. We speak to the parents very passionately about it and the evidence is there for all to see.
“There are not many clubs I can think of that produce that pathway. We’ve done that very well for many years but we can’t stand still.
“We must move forward with every aspect of the academy and it starts with me taking over and moving forward.”
For Butt, the key is finding a balance in both the technical and social aspects of a young player’s development.
“A massive part of the academy is to keep [players] grounded,” said the 41-year-old.
“We don’t believe they should have too much at an early age. There’s a lot in the papers about how other clubs have got x, y and z.
“You’ve got to have great facilities, which we feel we’ve got here. But you need a lot of tough things as well like a bit of a slog, games on bad surfaces, against bad teams with bad crowds.”
Butt came through the United ranks as part of the ‘Class of ‘92’ and played under Sir Alex Ferguson before working with Sir Bobby Robson at Newcastle, experience he believes makes him the right man for the job.
“It was important for somebody to take over who knows the ins and outs of the club.
“It’s all well and good people saying they’ve done this badge, that badge, this university study and they know what it is but, a lot of the time, they don’t.”
Another victory against City on Saturday would give the entire academy a boost as it enters a new era.
Image courtesy of MUTV via YouTube, with thanks.